Small Island is the story of four people - Hortense, a school teacher; Gilbert, a former RAF driver; Queenie and Bernard Bligh, an English couple.
Hortense arrives in England with her heart broken and her life in a suitcase. Gilbert has been in England for a while but views the country in a different light after the war. It is a grim winter in 1948 when Hortense and Gilbert meet up again in London. Their landlady, Queenie, befriends the couple with innocence and courage until the unexpected arrival of her husband upends their conviviality.
The novel is elaborately structured with multiple narrators and a timeline that oscillates back-and-forth between the present and each character's backstory. Levy ably paints a portrait of two nations, England and the West Indies, as reflected in the very private lives and thoughts of her characters.
A winner of the Whitbread Award, The Orange Prize for fiction and many other accolades, Small Island's wit, tenderness and intelligence has quickly made it a modern classic.
Audio content: Andrea Levy